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Monday 26 May: Tale of the day

Monday, May 26, 2008
By Drew Lilley

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8.54 pm: Isn’t it ironic – the rain has eased off and it’s still reasonably light… Too late and too cold to get anyone else out there now though. Thanks for reading and of course commenting throughout the day – that’s what makes this blog what it is. See you tomorrow. Always a pleasure, never a chore…

8.20 pm: I am a man of my word - here's tomorrow's schedule. Ame, Rafa... all your favourites.

7.58 pm: Tomorrow’s schedule isn’t up yet but as soon as it is, I’ll post you a link. Regarding a full day’s play being rained off, that won’t happen as the forecasts are better, but if you do have tickets, then, and I quote:

- If duration of programmed matches (all categories) is less or equal to fifty-nine minutes: full refund (excluding handling costs);
- If duration of programmed matches (all categories) is between one hour and one hour fifty-nine minutes: refund of 50% (excluding handling costs);
- If duration of programmed matches (all categories) is equal to two hours or more: no reimbursement.

The timing on the match sheets completed by the chair umpire is proof of match duration.

There you go.

Will I be at Wimbledon, one of you asks/hopes not. ‘Fraid so, I’ll be there. In a very Wimbledon-style blog. Less irreverent, fewer nicknames but hopefully just as entertaining. It seemed to go down quite well last year…

7.40 pm: The rain has gone back from bucketing to spotting but it’s still raining nevertheless. Play has been cancelled for the night I’m afraid.

7.03 pm: Bucketing down I’m afraid. If it stops then it should still be light enough for some play… Cross your fingers…

6.30 pm: Richard Gasquet’s doctor has just explained that poor Ritchie has a cyst on the cruciate ligament in his knee, hence his having to pull out.

6.17 pm: Still raining, but a bit less than when last I posted. Cross those fingers with me, folks...

On to your questions. Both Tsonga and Gasquet have knee problems. Tsonga’s problem will require surgery and see him miss Wimbledon as well. Gasquet’s problem should be less serious and mean a shorter absence.

What if it carries on raining? Rafa will play tomorrow (most likely). I’ll post the schedule for tomorrow as soon as it’s up. Bear in mind that we got through 15 men’s and 15 women’s matches yesterday which meant that we were already ahead of sched. Add to that 11 women’s matches completed today and 15 men’s and we’re almost half-way through the first round. Round 2 Tue and Wed, Round 3 Thu and Fri, Round 4 Sat and Sun, then we’ve got a whole week to alternate men’s and women’s for the quarters, semis and the final. Sorted.

Young up and coming players? Here in France it’s Alize Cornet. Great player who’s risen from RG junior champion and was ranked 80-odd a year ago and is now top 20. Her game is suited to clay as well. There’s also the fact that she’s nice, chatty, pretty (let’s face facts, it all helps to create an impression) and also built more like Henin than most other players (ie she’s petite as opposed to being a six-footer) so she’s got everything on her side to win fans over. Read an interview with her here.

Men’s? Hmm… Stan the Man Wawrinka is another meteoric riser who is suddenly inside the top 10 after a great start to the year but I think people need him to perform well in a Grand Slam to be convinced. Why not here? I’m biased as a Swissie but I’m pinning my hopes on him and on Timea Bacsinszky to be the next big things.

5.55 pm: Don’t shoot the messenger but it’s pouring down here… To answer a few questions below, rgradio@fft.fr is how you can get in touch with the Radio people (and not multimedia – I got that wrong earlier). The doubles draws are up except for the mixed which should be up later today. Click here. And in the mean time, keep studying/marking/working…

5.20 pm: I tried singing “blogging in the rain, just blogging in the rain” in the company of Eli on Radio Roland Garros, but that hasn’t got rid of the clouds. Raindrops keep falling on our head and the sky is somewhat ominous. I’ll keep you posted but we might be off for a while. Keep posting though.

5 pm: While we’re here with a minute or two to spare, hello to all of those who have taken the time to write in. Many of you have your names at the bottom of the page, but thanks also to Rabia, Guy, Tristan, Sophie x0x0, Fatima :-D, Jane, Andaleeb, Thibault, Annelies, James, Tasmanian Sam, Sydney Carin, Ted from Poland and Luke from Carlisle who wrote in. If we’re here, it’s thanks to you…

4.55 pm: I’m afraid it’s still on the damp side of rainy out there. No sign of a break in the clouds yet. You can still listen to Eli and Araz on Wadio Woland Gawwos though. They’ll take requests, imitate players, recall their favourite matches from the past… these guys aren’t afraid of a rain break. Mail them on rgradio@fft.fr and we’ll pass your kind words on to them.

4.37 pm: Roland Garros is now a sea of green as the covers are on throughout. The only exception is court 13 (where the covers are clay-coloured…) Keep posting though lads and lasses – I ain’t going nowhere (well I’ll metaphorically go to the homepage and post a Federer report and an interview with the lovely Alize Cornet who will become my favourite Frenchie if and when Amelie retires, which I hope won’t be soon. I’ve already lost Juju, I can’t lose Ame just yet…)

4.35 pm: Frenchie Florent Serra is one game from victory on Lenglen so they’re staying out. He should have played Gasquet but the French No8 seed pulled out earlier today, however, meaning that Colombian lucky loser Santiago Giraldo (what a name) stepped into the breach, but he looks like going down in straight sets. And yes, down he goes, 6-4 6-3 6-2. Bravo Florent.

4.30 pm: Play suspended on No1 court. They’re going to wait ten minutes before Rafa and Thomaz Bellucci come out on Chatrier as well as the rain is quite heavy. On come the covers… Other matches are still going however - Chela's 4-1 up in the fourth so maybe Isner will be hoping for a rain-break.

4.27 pm: More seeds are coming out. Anna Chakvetadze (another of my facebook friends!) is on No1 court warming up (literally, the rain is worsening) against Nuria Lllllllagostera Vives. The two will henceforth be referred to as Chaka Tadz and LLLLL to make things easier on my typing fingers. Chaka's No6 seed here.

4.23 pm: Stand by your beds: triple defending champion Rafa Nadal is about to come out and start his four-peat bid. He won’t like the conditions though – heat is his friend, making his forehands grip and leap up off the clay to shoulder height but at the moment, it’s drizzling here.

4.18 pm: Seed breathing sigh of relief alert. Venus fiiiiiinally puts the match to bed with an emphatic smash but by gosh was she made to work. Consistently inconsistent is the way to describe her today…

4.10 pm: Ukrainian No23 seed Alona Bondarenko is a set and 4-0 down to Petra Cetkovska out on No17 court while Agneska Radwanksa (Polish No14 seed) is about to take the first set from Mariya Koryttseva. Olivier Patience is serving to stay in the match at 1-2, 5-6 against fellow garlic, sorry Gallic, player Mickael LLLLLLodra while ooh, Chela broke in game 12 to take the third set and stay alive against two-metre-tall Isner.

4.04 pm: A pensive Richard Williams looks on as his daughter continues to have to fight. Having broken the Obziler serve, she has just illustrated all that has been wrong with her game for the past hour or so. After hitting a perfect winner, she then nets an easy backhand to negate all her good work. It gets all deucey in this sixth game and then Venus looooongs another backhand before finally taking the game to lead 4-2. Chris Bowers, who has been on Radio Roland Garros today, reckons that 90% of players who win game seven go on to win the set. It’s nail-biting time therefore…

3.52 pm: Ooh, Venus’ serve is deserting her. Double fault and then a second service which leads to the point of the day. Drop shot, Venus comes in and plays it right at the Israeli’s feet, but Obziler digs it out in a perfect lob then stays at the net to finish off with a volley. Deuce on the (shaky) Venus serve. Ah, Venus then takes the next two points to hold serve. A battle royal here. Tzipora is the doyen of the circuit as well, 35 years young.

3.38 pm: Jinxtastic I am.Obziler the thriller has won four in a row and is serving for the second set. Plenty of deuces in the last game then Venus hit one a thou’ long that was called out, and while she furrowed her brows at the umpire, she didn’t complain. And while I’m writing this, Obzy has made it 30-15. 16 unforced errors this set from Venus and there we go, make that 17 as one bulges the net and it's one set all.

3.30 pm: It’s baguettes and frogs’ legs all around at the moment. Despite Gasquet (and of course Tsonga) pulling out (the French one and two no less), we have Serra, Llodra v Patience, Gicquel and Ascione out there at the moment.

Meanwhile, six-foot-nine, finds the line, Johnny Isner plays so fine is what they could be singing out there at the moment on court 10, as the big fella leads two sets to love over Chela.

3.25 pm: Jinx attack. Tzippy Obzilly breaks back against Venus and it’s back on serve. Typical Drew. Let me know which players you do/don’t want me to jinx…

3.15 pm: There’s a trace of rain in the air but nothing that will keep the players off court. Slipping and sliding is part of any clay-courter’s game and if anything, a touch of precipitation makes the court slower and less slippery. Unlike at Wimbledon where it’s breakneck mountain once the grass gets a bit greasy.

Venus is hitting her stride out there, serving strongly and looks to be coasting to victory. Could this be her year for clay?

3.08 pm: Bad news for the Aussies. Frenchie Devilder breaks the Gooch and is two games away from eliminating Guccione. Right, over to you – post in the comments telling me which ties you like me to watch and chat on.

3.05 pm: Whenever he gets an inch of space, Odesnik steps inside and whips a forehand down the line, into the backhand court for a right like Canas. The Argentinean serves at 8-9 and after an Odie return, Canas nets! Odesnik is through in straight sets! Wristy lefty forehands were what won it for him. The US wild-card will face Bjorkman or Lee next up, with Djoker most likely lying in wait in the third round.

3.01 pm: Odesnik puts down an almost perfect drop, Canas makes it and hits hit deep and Odie hits his passing shot out. Set point for Willy but the American lefty comes to half-court and whips a forehand into the corner…

3 pm: Odesnik serves, second serves, Canas lobs one up and Odesnik nets. Six-all and they have to change over again.

2.55 pm: Blimey, court 6 we have an upset that any Americans on line will enjoy. Wayne Odesnik is in his third tie-break in a row against Guillermo “Willy”Canas after the American won the first two. It’s 3-4 Odesnik going with service in this one, but a seed elimination (Canas is No29) is on the cards.

2.52 pm: Just been to stretch my legs and whom did I see but none other than Johnnie Mac – the greatest player never to win here (assuming that Rog manages it one day…) As always at these occasions, he was wearing a suit (light grey, pin-striped), a certain brand of flat basketball shoes that you all know, biiig wrap-around shades (even though it’s a tad overcast) and a black baseball cap on backwards. What a man.

2.40 pm: How is Venus playing, asks Sammy? She’s broken and seems to be serving well enough to through Tzippy off her rhythm. Venus is taller than me – what is it about you Americans? She’s also got a smart new haircut but is still wearing her visor, as always.

2.36 pm: For any US early birds, John Isner, big bad John, has taken the first set from none other than Juan Ignacio Chela 6-2. Isner is 6’9”… that’s 10 inches taller than me. And ooh, here we go, Querrey second serves, Federer returns, Querrey longs and the Swiss maestro is through in straight sets. Rog waves benignly and tosses his sweatbands into the crowd.

2.31 pm: It really is Swisstastic today of course as my little Timmy Bacsinszky (scroll down to 11.34 am if you want to read more) came back from a set down in the Alpine derby to defeat Tamira Paszek earlier today. What a performance. Keep an eye on Timmy – I said last year that she’d go far. Top 20 by the year’s end, I tells ya.

2.26 pm: Hopp Suisse as they say where I come from. Not only is Wocket Wodger wacing through his match with Kwerrey (enough Ws already) but Patty Schnyder, top-ranked Swiss Miss since Martina Hingis retired, is a set to the good over Ekaterina Bychkova – a woman whom she is yet to beat. Peppermint Patty likes the ol’ clay and is a real battler. And with Juju out, the women’s draw is wide open. Maybe, just maybe… Ooh, and just as I write that, the defty lefty drops a pearl just over the net to prove my point. Go Peppermint Swissy!

2.20 pm: Ritchie Ritchie Ritchie, out out out! Bad news for Richard Gasquet whose season goes from bad to worse – his coach Guillaume Peyre has announced that his player awoke with a knee problem this morning and has had to pull out. Florent Serra is through to the second round so it’s not all bad news for the Frenchies, but this is still pretty dramatic news – Ritchie was No.8 seed after all.

2.14 pm: Do forgive my absence there, just updating the homepage after T-Rob beat Guilly C. Venus is out on Chatrier having just started against Israel’s Tzipora Obzilder. Clay’s not her best surface so it’ll be hard going for her. She was amazing at Wimbledon last year though – the ground she covered across the baselines was beyond belief…

Aussie Aussie Aussie, ouch ouch ouch. The Gooch – Chris Guccione for the non-Antipodeans – double faults to give Frenchie Devilder the first set.

1.59 pm: Whoosh! T-Rob wins, 5-7 6-4 6-1 6-4, having taken the last four games. To use last entry’s phrase, he hit his straps towards the end but it was more a case of poor Guillermo running out of gas…

1.56 pm: Robredo breaks back, but it’s time for a proper Federer-watch. He’s at 3-2 in the second against Sam Querrey having just broken. The champ (well, not the RG champ but the champ everywhere else) isn’t quite hitting his straps yet but it’s early doors. He’s attacking, coming to the net, as one would expect, but his radar isn’t quite on. His service is carrying him through at the moment and his depth on service returns is also impressive.

1.50 pm: Morning to any east coast American readers out there. And maybe a few Centrals and if you’re really keen along the lines of avid poster Janie Red, who claims to be related to Jonas Bjorkman, and then top of the morning to any Rocky Mountain or Pacific Coasters out there at the crack of dawn. Speaking of US fans, my friends at www.onthebaseline.com have a prediction game that you might enjoy. I played it at the US Open and won a gadget that helps you practise your top-spin (for coming third as opposed to winning, I hasten to add.)

1.42 pm: Tommy Rob’s getting banana-ed up, while Coria’s having a word about the new balls that seem to be deflated. The umpire reaches into a new bawbag, as they call it in Scotland, and Guilly C’s back underway. This match is still alive – the man with the protected ranking (given to Grand Slam winners/finalists who fall on hard times like Verkeerk last year or those who have missed a lot of time through injuries – and GC was out all last year) is battling and is a break up in the fourth.

1.37 pm: Wocket Wodger serves out to take the first set. I was asked by someone at the bottom of the page how he was looking in practice, and the answer is relaxed and with some very whippy forehands that he seemed to be practising in the hope of out Rafaing Rafa. They weren’t kicking up like spitting cobras which is how the Majorcan’s shots are often described but still looking quite tasty. It’ll still take a Rafa blister and a 5-set semi-final against the Djoker to give Rog a chance in the final though in my humble opinion, and that’s assuming the Swiss maestro doesn’t come a cropper against… nah, he’s got the nice half of the draw, hasn’t he? If he doesn’t make the final then I think we can official announce that his reign is over…

1 .28 pm: Ladies and gentlemen, the French Open is now officially Baghdatis-less. The hirsute Cypriot No17 seed managed the grand total of eight games and left the tournament by the little door as the Frenchies would say. Simone Bolelli is into the second round where he will face Del Potro. Baghy couldn’t serve for toffee today…

1.19 pm: Robredo’s completely run away with the third set...I think we’ll be seeing the back of Coria sooner than we’d like folks!

1.11 pm: Well certainly wasn’t expecting that. Wocket Wodger drops his serve but bites back to take the fifth game..not making such light work of Querrey just yet. Still... pretty sure he hasn’t broken a sweat yet.

12.57 pm: It’s happening again…now one set apiece, Tommy Rob easily breaks Coria’s serve in the first game of the third set. Baghdatis still going strong despite receiving medical treatment, making Bolelli work every angle of the court.

12.50 pm: Ouch..T.Rob breaks Coria’s serve almost to love to move into pole position in the second set. Meanwhile Federer is out on the Suzanne Lenglen court warming up for his tussle with Sam Querrey…the No.1 seed should make light work of the American.

12.40 pm:Phew! JJ having broken Niculescu once again serves to take the game in 2 sets, but not before the Romanian has the chance to slip in a sneaky last effort drop volley. The lovely Serb is all smiles as she eases into the next round…the Serbs all a bit slow outta the blocks in this first round tho..

12.34 pm: It’s still going with serve in the battle of the killer B’s. Baghy drops one, Bolelli comes in and says “anything you can do, I can quite literally do better” and shows him how it should have been done. Whatever Baghy tries, Bolelli seems to be the equal to it. The No17 seed is in a bit of bother here…

12.22 pm: JJ breaks and then is broken back. Come on Jelly, this is what people criticise women’s tennis for, don’t let me down here. In the men’s Coria is playing excellent defensive tennis and waiting for Tommy Rob to try to hit winners, which he isn’t doing at the moment.

12.14 pm: JJ does the splits as she stretches for a Niculescu drop shot which she doesn’t quite reach. And in true JJ style, she completes the acrobatics/yoga by laying her head on her knee, right leg forward, left leg back. I can’t even reach my ankles when trying to touch my toes so I’m always amazed at JJ’s suppleness. And after missing that point she finally wins the first set, 7-3 in the tie-break. Will that launch her on to better things in set 2? We can but hope.

Speaking of set 2, that’s where they are between Guilly C and Tommy Rob, with the underdog having taken the first set with a crafty little break right at the end of the set when it’s impossible for your opponent to come back. Again, it’s early days, but Coria really is giving a good account of himself, despite all of his recent troubles (scroll down for the link to the match preview on this). And as we’ve said before, Tommy Rob seems to be a guy he likes to play against…

12.05 pm: 20 or so Dutch fans, orange t-shirts and Hup Holland! hats all on display, have just arrived in the stadium. My breakfast buddy Robin’s on court 14 but not til much later in the day. JJ meanwhile is in a tie-break…

11.59 am: Keep posting by the way at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes the messages may disappear but rest assured, they are all in there and they’ll appear any minute now. My team-mates are moderating like crazy at the moment. On court, Anna Pavlyuchenkova is about to become the first winner of the day on court 14. Another up-and-coming Russian – how do they manage it? (Sigh, as a Brit it is a constant frustration…!)

11.54 am: Bolelli breaks again and takes the first set. Baghy’s coming to the net and being passed and his serve is also letting him down. It’s early days though…

11.50 am: Jelly’s up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. She’s pouncing on the Niculescu serve but the Romanian is doing likewise to JJ’s. She’ll need a better service than this if she is to rival the Marias, Serenas and Svetas.

11.41 am: Moving swiftly on and it’s the battle of the killer Bs. Baghy, who has gone back to being the bearded wonder, is serving at 2-3 against Simone Bolelli. The Baghster made it to the final of the Aus open in 2006. Speaking of finalists, Bolelli beat Martin Verkeerk here last year – the enormous Dutchman who made it to the final here before losing to Ferrero in 2003, never to be seen again (well not quite literally - I saw him last year as he still had a protected ranking and was staying in my hotel. Tried to nick some of my pizza as well – nowhere near as polite as his fellow Dutchman Robin Haase…) Anyway, Baghy’s looking sluggish out there and Bolelli has seized the day, carpe-d the diem and is 4-2 up. He’s quite the clay-courter (a Munich finalist) and broke into the top 50 two weeks ago so is the form bunny.

11.34 am: Time to take a look at the Euro 2008 match-up. We have Timea Bacsinskzy against Tamira Paszek in a Switzerland – Austria tie on court 16. I like both players and it’s a shame that they are meeting in the first round as both have the potential to go a lot further, but that’s part of the attraction of a tournament like this. Timmy’s based in the French-speaking part of Switz but speaks half-a-dozen languages and has come on like a house on fire this year, despite having a wee falling-out with the Swiss tennis federation over Fed Cup no-shows. Tammy Paszek meanwhile made the fourth round at Wimbledon and the US last year so has real pedigree already for a 17-year-old. And in the time it’s taken me to type this, she’s broken. Tammy 2, Timmy 1, Tammy to serve.

11.27 am: Mighty Magyar Agnes Szavay is living up to her No12 seeding by leading 3-0 over not quite as mighty Morita on court 7. Another seed doing well is Karin Knapp, 3-0 over Martina Mueller in a battle of the alliterators (KK v MM). Ah, Monica Niculescu is into her stride and has broken back against JJ, the No3 seed who is many people’s tip to win this year – she is a clay-courter after all.

11.25 am: One Jelena is 3-0 up (JJ), one is 3-0 down – ie Severine Bremond is allez-ing and in fact has allez-ed to two breaks already. It’s with serve on Chatrier but Robredo is looking the better of the two, sending Coria hither and thither (if you thee what I’m thaying).

11.17 am: JJ is the first breakmeistress of the day. Niculescu was looking nervous on the service, and JJ is sending her left and right, left and right and waiting for the mistakes to come.

11. 13 am: JJ holds quickly. Robredo and Coria are under way, with two priests watching them in the front row. Let’s hope they don’t swear and cuss if they fluff a shot or disagree with a line judge…

11.10 am: Jelly and Monica are out on Lenglen warming up – not that they need to do that literally as it’s a nice ambient temperature out there. Chair ump Eva Azderaki informs us that JJ has won the toss and elected to serve, which is what she’s about to do. For fashion fans, she’s wearing a fetching powder blue dress. Severine Bremond and Jelena Pandzic are on No.1 court (two Jelenas at once – not often you get that eh?) in another matchup of players who have never met before. Guilly’s warming up on PC court but I can’t see the Robster yet.

10.50 am: First up on Chatrier, it’s Tommy Rob versus Guilly C. Read all about it right here. On Lenglen, it’s Jelly Jankovic playing Monica Niculescu – the first time the two have met. Baghy – Bolelli on No.2 court – the Cypriot is a favourite in these parts as he used to train here. Bolelli is an occasional practice partner of Wocket Wodger Federer sp that should stand him in good stead.

10.40 am: Morning morning morning! How are we all today? Drew Lilley, here to entertain you and perhaps even keep you informed, you never know your luck. It’s a star-studded line-up today with Tommy Rob and Jellybean Jankovic out there early doors, as is our favourite Cypriot Baghy. Good evening to you Australians out there – the Gooch will be on second up on Court 3 so drink some coffee and stay up for that.

And most importantly, how is the weather? Same as yesterday, so sunny at the moment, a little bit of cloud and wind and most importantly no rain. There was a little bit of humidity in the air when I went for my early-morning jog (I know, how virtuous of me) and then the highlight of my morning was saying “Yes, of course you can” over breakfast when Robin Haase asked me if he could have the glass on my table that I wasn’t using. I’m a man of simple tastes, easily pleased…

Keep the messages flying in. I got some of the personal ones yesterday that are just being forwarded so thanks for those. Keep posting at the bottom of the page, let us know what you think, who’s hot, who’s not, who’s in, who’s out…

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